Formations Summary

September–December 2023

Unit 1: God’s New People

T. Wayne Proctor

Peter understood that early Christians would likely suffer persecution for their faith. Suffering is one of the dominant themes in 1 Peter, yet he was also was a realist and believed that suffering was a valuable test to strengthen faith. Just as Jesus suffered, Christians also should expect to be mistreated in this life. Yet, amid pain and suffering, God will take care of God’s people. Peter assures his readers that we can cast our burdens and worries upon God. Furthermore, Christians are to be disciplined in their behavior and their faith. Peter was convinced that the best way to live within the structures of society was to walk and live humbly and submissively.

Unit 2: Offering Our Gifts to God

Joseph LaGuardia

The rhythm of receiving God’s gifts and offering our gifts in return defines this unit. In the first lesson, ancient instructions on tithing remind us that our gifts have more to do with celebration and justice than with money. The second lesson explores our posture towards God. The third lesson is a practical story that communicates a heavenly principle. The last lesson is about our sacrifice of praise. In our praise, we offer God our very lives. All are invited to feast and give our offerings to God through Communion as well as in the daily disciplines of our personal journey with God.

Unit 3: Solomon’s Temple

Michael L. Ruffin

The lessons in this unit all deal with the building of the temple, which Solomon undertook after God denied David the honor of doing so. The first lesson examines Solomon’s decision to build the temple and leads us to ask how we can best use our resources to serve God. The second lesson examines the finery with which Solomon decorated the temple and leads us to ask how our environment can help us worship. The third lesson focuses on the celebration of the completion of the temple and leads us to ask what blessings we need to celebrate. The final lesson considers the coming of the Lord’s glory upon the temple and leads us to ask how we respond to God’s glory. All the lessons are drawn from the book of 2 Chronicles.

Unit 4: Awaiting Christ

Emily Hull McGee

Theologian Henri Nouwen once said, “Waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait, the more we hear about him for whom we are waiting.” The four weeks leading to Christmas, called Advent, provide a sacred space in which to wait, to learn, to expect, and to prepare for the coming of Christ. In this unit, we will explore some of the earliest Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. By connecting these texts with the New Testament account of Jesus’s birth, the five lessons invite participants to consider the difference Christ’s coming makes, how we might prepare for his coming, what comfort his coming brings, how we share such good news, and what actually happens when Jesus appears.

January–April 2024

Unit 1: Jesus Says, “Follow Me”

LaMon Brown

In this season of Epiphany, we emphasis the revelation of God to the world in the person of Jesus Christ. How appropriate, then, that we will study about following and proclaiming Jesus during this season. This month’s unit of study explores Jesus’s call to discipleship in all four of the Gospels. The unit title comes from the words of Jesus in the first lesson, when Jesus calls four fishermen to follow him. In the second lesson, the Gospel writer describes Jesus preaching in his hometown. In the third lesson, Jesus prepares his disciples for the mission on which he is sending them. The final lesson describes how Jesus sends his apostles into the world after his resurrection. May we learn how to reveal God’s presence in the world by following our Lord’s example.

Unit 2: The Book of Jonah

Lee Canipe, Blake Kendrick

The book of Jonah is unusual. Other Old Testament prophets are sent to deliver God’s word—and often God’s judgment—to God’s people in Israel and Judah. Here, God sends Jonah to preach repentance in Assyria. God’s people are stubborn and unwilling to listen to what these prophets have to say. But when Jonah preaches a one-sentence sermon, the entire city of Nineveh immediately repents of its collective sin. Jonah can be disobedient, petulant, prejudiced, sullen, and indignant. He can also be remorseful, brave, and faithful. Like Jonah, we are not always who we would like to be. As we approach Lent, we will witness Jonah wrestle with God’s call in ways that are—depending on the day—resistant, reflective, repentant, and resentful. As we spend some quality time with this unique prophet, where will we see ourselves in his story?

Unit 3: Practicing Lent

Paul Mullen, Rick Jordan

The Lenten season provides a sacred opportunity for us to grow closer to Christ in devoted love and daily commitment. The lessons in this unit draw our attention to Scripture passages that heighten our spiritual focus and challenge us with practical ways to grow deeper in our faith. Our first session will challenge us to consider how fasting can sharpen our focus on Christ throughout the Lenten journey. Lesson two will help us learn what it means to fine-tune our spiritual receptivity and experience more of God’s promised rest. In our third lesson, we will explore Psalm 51, one of the most riveting confessions in the Scriptures. In lesson four, we must decide what it means to follow a humble Messiah whose power is found in sacrificial love. Finally, our unit concludes on Easter Sunday, when we explore how the resurrection changed everything for Jesus’s first followers and how it can do the same for us.

Unit 4: Come to the Table

Alicia Davis Porterfield, Lawanda Smith, Bryan Whitfield

Gathering around a table to share bread and wine and proclaim Jesus’s saving work has always been a central act of Christian worship. Over four weeks, this unit will examine facets of this meal and the Christian traditions that developed surrounding it over the last 2000 years. In Luke 24, “breaking of the bread” is associated with an appearance of the risen Christ. In session 3, Paul calls the church to sobriety in their observance of “the Lord’s supper.” Finally, Luke 22 calls the act of blessing “giving thanks,” translated in Greek as Eucharist. In this lesson we’ll see how the idea of Eucharist highlights the role of thankful praise in our worship. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul says that sharing in the bread and the cup represents sharing in the body and blood of Christ. As you explore these facets of Christian worship at the table, consider how they might expand your understanding and practice of this important sacred act of the church.